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Freeland project builds for seniors
Bulldozers and dump trucks moving earth in Freeland this week started building the future home for a non-profit thrift store and the area's second senior housing development.
For Linda Moore, owner of the property, a Monday groundbreaking at the 6-acre site on Woodard Road was a dream realized.
"I've been waiting since 1996 to see this," Moore said. "It is very exciting."
About 25 people, including Moore and representatives from Island County Senior Services gathered for the groundbreaking and got a look at the first steps toward the construction of the dream project.
Last year, when Moore learned of Senior Thrift's desire to relocate from its Bayview rental location, she negotiated a joint project. Island County Senior Services purchased 1.5 acres of Moore's property for a new 13,000-square-foot retail store. The two-story building will sit below grade along the highway with access off Woodward Road. Moore will develop the remaining land into 30 senior housing units. Work started on the thrift store this week. Moore is still waiting for permits to be approved for her portion of the project.
Cost of the thrift store is estimated at $1.8 million. Senior Services purchased its acreage from Moore for $400,000.
Mike McIntyre, Senior Services director, credits Moore and members of the community for coming together to make the new store possible. He said Whidbey Island Bank is carrying the contract for the building.
"They really worked with us when other banks wouldn't by allowing us to put 10 percent down on the loan rather than 20 percent. We didn't find that willingness in other places," McIntyre said.
McIntyre said it was time for the thrift store to move. The current location cannot accommodate all the donations island residents bring. The store, he said, will make more money in a larger space. Becoming owners, rather than remaining renters, is also a better deal for Senior Services.
"Owning the facility is better in the long term for financial strength of ICSS than renting," McIntyre said.
All profits from the thrift store are used to directly support South Whidbey and other Island county seniors in need. Those needs include funding for a Meals on Wheels program and for CHORE, a program in which volunteers drive senior citizens to appointments and help them with household duties.
This year, the Meals on Wheels program is expected to serve 105,000 meals to 125 seniors. The meals cost between $5-$6 to prepare and deliver. An average donation of about $1.75 per meal and government funding pay for a portion of the program. Revenue from the thrift store pays for 50 percent of the program, McIntyre said.
"The funds raised from the thrift store will help to fill in the gaps in funding we have from other sources. That's why we are building a new store, to keep up the pace," McIntyre said.
Most exciting for the people at the worksite Monday was thinking about the future. The property sits below the level of Highway 525 and has an expansive view of open space and Holmes Harbor. The thrift store and senior housing will share a landscaped campus that includes trails and open space. The Langley firm of Flatrock Productions will design the senior housing as condominiums.
The campus design will allow seniors to walk from their homes to the thrift store.
Work at the building site started well. Moore said she was pleased to hear from contractors that the soil at the site is sandy, meaning it will drain well.
A stormwater drainage site with filters on the property will prevent excess water from running into Holmes Harbor. The thrift store's septic system will be on site. Moore's proposed condos will use the septic and drainfield system on Island Athletic Club's property across Woodward Road.